Undervalued Spotlight #164

nick fury 4nick fury 5Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #4 and #5, Marvel Comics, September and October 1968

This week I’m happy to have a guest Undervalued Spotlight contributor. Our good friend Mike Huddleston has submitted not one but two comics for our pleasure.

It’s funny, Mike emailed me with a an idea of doing one of these books and I loved the idea, I’ve always been a fan of both books, the Steranko style and the tough in high grade lily white covers are just the start with these books

Sure enough a day later Mike emails back saying “I can’t pick between them”! “I have to do them both”! I said “fantastic!”

Mike is always convincing with his spotlights, his Undervalued Spotlight #145 is one of my favorite Spotlights of all, his love for comics bursts off the page, and his arguments are sound!

Enough talk from me, let’s give the floor to Mike, take it away my friend;

 – Our undervalued spotlight today features two cool comics and one great artist, Jim Steranko, from one of my all time favourite Marvel runs: Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #1 thru #7.

Our first spotlight today is on Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 Sept.1968, cover by Jim Steranko, written by Roy Thomas, and interior art by Frank Springer. Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were created by Jack Kirby/Stan Lee back in the mid-sixties as a James Bond meets the Man from U.N.C.L.E. character and organization. Tony Stark recruits the then Colonel Fury to take on the role of Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to battle the evil forces of Hydra. This takes place in Strange Tales issue #135 and is covered in Walt’s Undervalued Spotlight #54. Take the time to re-read that pick and Walt’s observations and see how much of it has come true. Prices on that book have almost doubled in Overstreet since that post. OK enough schmoozing for Walt.

The cover on issue #4 is by Jim Steranko and features a bone white cover, with a stylized black and white collage of art laid over the white background. There is an action shot of Nick Fury in the foreground and bullet holes all over the logo. I love it. I’m no artist, but this work must be admired by his fellow artists as it has been “swiped” at least 4 times that I could find (Iron Man #15 Vol.4, Wolverine #27 Vol.3, Marvel Zombies #4 Vol.2, and Super Soldiers #6) and there are probably more. I should point out that Jim Steranko also borrowed from other artists. Nick Fury #3 pays homage to DC’s Detective #31 cover (note the cute little shadowy batman figure in the bottom left hand corner) and Nick Fury #7 is a clear Salvador Dali swipe; all good stuff.

The story in Nick Fury #4 is an expanded re-telling of the origin of Nick Fury and Shield from Strange Tales #135 and is written by Roy Thomas. A really solid, well told story and I must confess again to being a sucker for “origin” books. This book is also about 25% of the cost of Strange Tales #135 and it’s all Nick Fury. Bargain.

Part two of our spotlight is on Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #5 Oct. 1968. Cover, interior art, and written by Jim Steranko. This is the last complete story of Nick Fury done by Jim Steranko on this title. The cover is, again, terrific; a bone white cover with colourful psychedelic artwork. It is noted as a “Classic cover” in Overstreet. The interior work is typical Steranko full of colour, black and white images, one and two page splash pages, psychedelic artwork; the works. You definitely get your money’s worth – especially when it was only $0.12 at the time!

The story “What Ever Happened to Scorpio?” is well done. It focuses on the identity of the man/villain Scorpio. You don’t find out who he is in the book, but you can guess. His identity is confirmed later in an Avengers appearance (#60?) as Jacob Fury, Nick’s brother. Sadly this book is not about the beginning of a new era of greatness for Nick Fury and Shield but the end of it. Jim Steranko leaves the book in terms of writing and only provides a couple more great covers for issues #6 & 7. The Nick Fury title becomes like the early 1960s X-Men. It flounders and loses direction with a succession of artists and writers and finally succumbs after issue #15. The title has three reprint issues and then dies at #18.

Reasons to pick up these Nick Fury issues include;

The Nick Fury character has become a fixture in the Marvel universe of movies and is likely going to get more positive exposure in the future. I know this is not the same Nick Fury, but if you develop an interest in a character chances are you will want to go back and read more about the history and origin of it.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will be a new Joss Whedon TV series out this fall and I expect this will also garner more positive interest in these books – maybe even more than Nick Fury himself.

The whole Jim Steranko run of Nick Fury/Shield Issues #1 thru #7 are Sub-Mariner cheap books. For now. What makes both of these books difficult to find in grade are the tough white covers. There is a lot of tanning that takes place on most of the copies I see. I like a nice tight 9.2 white copy with white pages in this space, for a solid addition to your comic collection, with lots of room to grow price wise.

Nick Fury is still surviving as a character despite once being portrayed by David Hasselloff.

The 43rd edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide shows $49/$92/$135 as the 8.0/9.0/9.2 price splits for issue #4 and $52/$99/$145 as the 8.0/9.0/9.2 price splits for issue #5.

Strengths that make this comic book a good long-term investment are:

  • Tough white covers make high grade issues highly coveted
  • Fury has survived the Hof!!
  • Classic Steranko art with especially appealing covers
  • Cheap, for now!

 

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1600

8 Comments

  1. These two are in my collection: F+ and VF respectively. My #5 does have a nice white cover on it, but other defects bring it down to about 8.0

  2. Nice Tom. They are great books to own and I have them as well. #5 has a special meaning for me as it is last book I ever bought from Harry Kramer before he passed away. Scott and Anthony work ona prestigious retail award given to deserving comic shoppes in his name. The post is up now.

  3. Hey Mike, I like your notion that Nick Fury was created as a James Bond meets the Man from Uncle character since it is probably a little-known fact that James Bond and Napoleon Solo were both created by Ian Fleming as reported in Jess Nevins’ Impossible Territories (his companion to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier. Apparently the Bond movie franchise owners wanted Fleming to disassociate himself from the Solo character since they didn’t want two Flening created superspies competing in the movies.

    Those Steranko Nick Fury issues are probably among the most beautifully illustraed comics of all time. Nice to see them featured.

  4. Hi Mel,

    Thanks for that great tid-bit of info on James Bond/Napolean Solo. I would like to say I knew that before I did the post but I did not!

    Agree 100% on the Steranko covers.

  5. You all should check out Steranko: Graphic Narrative, the catalogue produced for an art exhibition of the same name at the Winnipeg Art Gallery guest curated
    by Phil Fry and Ted Poulos (1977)

  6. Thanks Wayne – I will check that out. Right now I am patiently waiting for the 2nd Steranko Artist Edition to arrive. It supposed to be this summer, but they told me that last summer. I know it will be worth the wait.

  7. Could the dates of these posts be added? I am a little confused by year on occasion.

    On the subject of Nick Fury and Jim Steranko I was just ten days ago visiting Phil Fry who did the exhibition at WAG back in 1977. (A correction… Phil was Contemporary Art Curator there). I was on my way back from Ottawa to see Alter Ego at the Library& Archives, attend a NGC opening and visit old friends.

    Last fall I suggested we go down to Windsor to see Jim S as a bit of a surprise thing but the organizer never responded and as it turned out Phil wasn’t too excited and it would have been very long 12 hour drive.

    But lastly we got into Steranko and his greatness right away like it was 45+ years ago. I suggested I contact WAG for a reprint but like any academic he thought the latter part would need a rewrite. It was slightly ‘semiotic’ and would some adjustment. Forty-five years later he knows it is the back part that needs work. PhD indeed. Steranko’s excellence was a no brainer if you came from the art world and took your comics seriously. He was way above the others. In the words of critic Donald Kuspit many years ago in an essay titled something like Regionalism Revisited he stated that those who came from off the islands of power are the ones who change things. I still treasure my signed photos and posters and a special evening.

    Additionally, we got onto another exhibition, The Structure of Comics also at the WAG in 1973-74. Not instilled in our minds as much because it did not have a publication. Rare in the those days as now. It might have been money because the NGC show on Bell Comics was out on the road about the same time with a hardcover catalogue and lots of accessories. It was odd not to have a publication because there was an astounding large poster of comic characters swinging off the new and iconic Winnipeg Art Gallery.

    The Structure of Comics was a semiotic analysis of storytelling using actual comics and featured a reading table of Steranko’s work. I would like to backtrack to see if Phil’s work created the descriptions such as Splash page.

    Phil, whose PhD was from Bruege BE did an essay in French for a semiotic journal on this show.

    For the Structure of comics Phil did an interview with Barry William-Smith then known for Conan. It in his basement and I have to get it out.

    So I am glad others think Jim was of some excellence because it has not always been so. I treasure my collection.

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